Magic Mike (Steven Soderbergh, 2012)
A male stripper teaches a younger performer how to party, pick up women, and make easy money.
Director Steven Soderbergh announced his retirement from directing a little while ago but he seems to be working even harder than before since then. With three films in 2011, Magic Mike in 2012, and two new releases in 2013 one can ask if it was just a joke from the young prodigy who wowed the Cannes film festival with his first feature Sex, Lies, and Videotape back in 1989. Once again, Soderbergh brings sex in front of his legendary red camera in his own particular manner. While Sex, Lies, and Videotape was about desire and unconventional emotions around sex, he also gave us one of the steamiest sex scenes of mainstream cinema in Out of Sight, a part in the erotic themed portmanteau film Eros, and directed a porn star, Sacha Grey, in his film about a call girl The Girlfriend Experience. Soderbergh’s depiction of sex and sexuality is far from being conventional or stereotyped. He has something to say about it and he is eager to study facets of human sexuality with no reserve or taboos.
In Magic Mike we are following Mike (Channing Tatum) and Adam (Alex Pettyfer) who met on a construction site for a roofing job. The same night they accidentally fall on each other and Mike gets Adam into a club and initiates him to his night life of male stripping. Young Adam, who is only nineteen rapidly gets a kick of this job of easy money and easy girls. While Mike, thirty years old, almost too old to do this lifestyle, has a plan to start making furniture from recycled parts of mechanics. With time and assurance Adam becomes cockier and falls slowly into drugs and into troubles while his big sister sees his friendship and lifestyle from a bad angle. A romance will develop between stripper Mike and the big sister. With a synopsis like that one could think that this story has been made so many times that nothing new could get out of it.
Well, with Soderbergh behind the wheel we are in for a visual delight of steamy exteriors and a great cinematography. The stripping numbers are shot with inspiring angles and creative ideas. It is also a character study that most films of the genre won’t dare to try to exploit. As an actor, Tatum often tells in interviews that he knows he has a limited talent. While being co-producer of Magic Mike, the character of Adam was based on his own experience when he was eighteen years old. His performance is minimalist and truthful, it is clear that he is convincing and has been is these situations. The young Pettyfer and Cody Horn are also well directed and might be to follow because they seem promising new talents. The big surprise apart from Channing Tatum is the part of Dallas played by Matthew McConaughey in an over the top forty year old male stripper entrepreneur of the Xquisite act. He is the coach, the boss, and the big brother in the place. Since Dazed and Confused, McConaughey never had taken a better script than Magic Mike and his next projects are also intriguing and a departure from his former mediocre strike of films.
At first, I wasn’t that much interested in the story of a male stripper portrayed by Tatum but a watch and knowing that Soderbergh was in command I could not be more happily surprised. It is one of the most interesting films of 2012 and not a masterpiece but still one of my top films of the year so far.